Despite being tackled, Ethan held tight to Jill’s hand when the flash of light came. Unfortunately, because the big man startled him, he failed to close his eyes, so the first thing he did was hear a bunch of shouting and screaming from men that he could not see for the spots in his eyes.
Did we land in a battle? he wondered. After the required moment of eye rubbing, he saw Jill staring straight ahead and standing still like a statue. Several spears were waving in her direction. Lars was on the ground, apparently dazed, but looking up at him. All around a campfire, dark skinned men held up swords and gripped their spears. Some pointed the weapons in their direction, some waved them wildly in the air, but all of them looked frightened and very shaken so Ethan felt it wise not to make any sudden moves.
“You still owe me two gold crowns,” Lars said with a guffaw as he came out of his temporary shock.
“Ha!” Ethan pointed to the crowd, which was warily keeping its distance. “You said you always wanted to travel.”
Lars stood slowly to his full height, which in the firelight made him look like a little giant, and that made the men facing them babble louder, and they backed up several steps. Lars noticed their predicament and immediately pulled his gun; but when he counted his opponents, he thought better of it and put the gun away.
A man in a long, multi-colored robe finally came from a distant tent, raving something in what had to be Arabic, or Moorish, or some North African tongue. One man broke from the pack of swords and spears and pointed at the trio, like his finger was glued to their faces. He let out a string of words that was so high pitched and rapidly spoken it was hard to distinguish one word from another.
The man in the robe eventually quieted the frightened man and stepped up for a closer look. He started with the big, older man, Lars. “Sveedish?” He asked.
“Ya.” Lars responded, but otherwise held his tongue. The man nodded and stepped to look at the other two.
“Cherokee?” He asked Jill.
“Only a quarter.” Jill answered to Ethan’s surprise.
“Ah!” The man’s face brightened considerably. “Englanders. I thought, unhappily, you were Alemans. I don’t speak Sveedish none, and Alemani not much good. I speak Englander far much better.”
“Glad to hear it.” Ethan quipped and Jill bumped him, but took his hand.
“But come, come. You tell Ali Pasha all there is to tell. Come, come.” He turned and started back the way he had come. They followed since it was the only way out of the pocket of spears. Jill had the presence of mind to shut down the laptop and return the machine, dangling wires and all to the briefcase, while she picked up the dimensional watch from where Lars had dropped it.
“So where is this place?’ Lars asked after a moment. He eyed the Moors who divided for Ali Pasha like the Red Sea parted for Moses. Ethan noticed that they stayed divided for him and Jill and gave Lars some extra space.
“I was typing coordinates and frequencies in the dark. Give me a break,” Jill said in her own defense.
“I don’t know Uncle Lars,” Ethan said. He lifted his hand up to rest on the big man’s shoulder. “But I can say we are not in Kansas anymore.”
“Ah, yes. Please to give your weapons.” Ali Pasha spoke at the door to his tent. “My eunuch, Manomar is most protective of my womens, even if I only bring three on this small expedition.”
“Your wives?” Ethan asked while he allowed himself to be searched. Ali Pasha nodded, and Ethan felt shocked, not by what was expressed so much as how it was said. Ali Pasha spoke as if it was the most natural and matter of fact thing to have a eunuch and a harem; but then Ethan understood all at once that for Ali Pasha, it was perfectly natural. Ethan was the one with the strange, cultural ideas in this world.
Jill, meanwhile, kept Lars from removing his gun belt. “Just the knife.” She whispered, and Lars nodded. Ethan whipped his head around at that, because it sounded like Jill said the phrase in Swedish and Ethan could not imagine how he understood what she said.
“Come, come.” Ali Pasha invited them to enter and take seats on the cushions that were arranged on the floor. He sat in the tent’s lone chair. Several women came scurrying in and knelt before Ali Pasha who spoke to them in his North African tongue before he dismissed them with a comment to his guests.
“Wives. Concubines, Slaves. What can one do with such womens who are only womens?” He said the word “womens” like it was a terrible insult. “They all want my attentions, but I would never do my inquiries if I let them.”
Jill took Ethan’s hand to keep him quiet and Ethan held his tongue, liking that prescription for his silence much better than being hit. Lars, though, did not get the message.
“So what is this?” Lars asked. “I don’t remember any Arab expeditions coming to New Sweden.”
“What is a New Sveeden?” Ali Pasha asked.
“Lars. The question is not what is this, but where is this.” Jill explained. “We are not in New Sweden anymore. We have gone right out of your world and into a completely different world.” Lars swallowed hard and Ethan saw that the man was beginning to understand that what Jill and Ethan had said in the courtroom was not just a fanciful story after all.
“Bless my soul.” Lars spoke softly.